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Pynchon's New Worlds

International Pynchon Week 2017

La Rochelle, June 5-9, 2017


The Modern Labyrinths of Thomas Pynchon’s Work
Romina Kipouridou

Scheduled in the Hôtel Fleuriau: Tuesday 6 June, from 15:45 to 16:15

Since ancient times, the labyrinth has been a place associated with life and death. From its very beginning, in the Egyptian art and tombs and the Greek mythology, the labyrinth stands for a space where life and death are in interaction, where the man struggles to overcome death and renew life. Wandering through a labyrinth will lead to its center, not necessarily the geometric one, to a goal, even to a fixed point that, according to Mircea Eliade, enables man to get away from chaos.

As André Gardies has written, when a modern architect is given a project, he designs a labyrinth and this applies to various artists, including fictional writers. However, modern labyrinths seem to have neither center nor solution, as fictional characters of writers such as Borges, Kafka and Joyce wander endlessly looking for an exit.

The paper aims to examine the pattern of this labyrinth in Thomas Pynchon's work and its structure as it appears in his books. His characters seem to be in a constant quest for something that may not even exist or that the more they approach it, the more it gets away such as the quest for the mysterious V. or Oedipa´s and Maxine´s investigations in The Crying of Lot 49 and Bleeding Edge respectively.

Pynchon's characters use Jorge Luis Borges' view on labyrinths that make people less free but open, that, as much as the labyrinth causes uncertainty, is at the same time a terror to us as ';we are obsessed with building labyrinths, where before there was open plain and sky' (Pynchon 2006: 268). In Gravity's Rainbow, the ';Holy-Center-Approaching is soon to be the number one Zonal pastime' (517). Mircea Eliade describes the holy center as a sacred zone, a zone of absolute reality and the meeting place of hell, earth and heaven, however, there may be no big plot and everything is simply an accident (Tanner 1982: 47).

Nevertheless, the modern man realizes that a true and unique objective center may not exist. This is obvious in Pynchon's work apart from the results of his characters' quests. He ';raises different possible ways of interpreting his own novel' (Seed 1988: 209). The reader has an active role and can also be the author of the text, wandering through the labyrinth, arriving at his own subjecting center giving his own interpretation and completing the message.